by Mick Coolie
The few coins in young Shep’s pockets played a peek-a-boo of hope that toyed with the tips of his fingers. “Always a good sign,” Ma said. “Can’t spend nan money what you pa kapab (can’t) touch. Bos mon will remember.” Mambo Dabrezil drew her gaze from the fields and the stinking Costa Rica coast, her mouchwa slipped down to her shoulders. She had a different take on the matter. “Mercy, fanm, he will need all that espere ak lajan and more, the rate he’s going, Bos mon be damned.
And he was.
Frank worked the New Haven—Hartford line from South Station to Central for twenty years, eleven as Baggage Master. The stories he told like a wise old Cop, were bold, larger than life, filled with characters and events a wild-eyed boy, like myself, could never get enough of. He was circus. He was African adventures, and Himalayan rescues, omniscient, the eye of Providence.
An American figure of the fifty’s, Frank made sure the boys who returned from overseas got home all right. Newlyweds sought him for guidance (the best way to Niagara Falls). Regulars looked for him in the parlor car, their misery to unload.
Dark shapes huddled onto number nine train against morning’s freezing frost that hung before the high windows. The Baggage Master stood beside the last car and waited to signal the conductor when the platform cleared. A thinning crowd exposed a woman’s head wrapped in a high bright colored scarf. She looked back at Frank before she disappeared on the train.
Holidays were around the corner evident by the way passengers launched themselves around wrapped boxes, frantic while they searched for their tickets. Frank took it slow this time of year; his patience was contagious. No one could calm em down like good old Frank.
“Ou vle tik`e m ‘yo?” Song language materialized above the flamboyant scarf, and before he knew it, Frank felt a tiny prick.
“Mambo,” Frank’s eyes went wide. “What are you doing … you struck me?”
“I didn’t think anyone would mind but you, let me introduce your son,” The Priestess’s arm reached out around the man seated next to her. Shep looked up from under a head of blonde dreadlocks. “B`os nan travay nonm.” Boss man was all he said then chuckled.
“You! Get off this train!” The baggage master screamed then called security. The crew arrived in time to see him crumble in the aisle.
Shep bent low to the Baggage Master’s ear, while security escorted Mambo Dabrezil, to inform him he would soon wake in his own coffin. “Your bones will be as hammers, the powder will see to that,” Frank’s vision blurred. “Ma will visit you first; I will see you in hell. You will learn the laws of the slaves that you have broken.
F`e m ‘konnen yon l`ot istwa—tell me another story—Bos Mon,” The Boko said. “You were so good at stories.”